Eating London is a concept originally conceived in Italy and was then brought to the East End by true Londoners who wanted to give people a taste of the City in more ways than one. The path follows a route in and around Spittalfields taking in Brick Lane and many other parts of Shoreditch.
Arriving at our meeting point in Spittalfields Market, we spotted Hanna, our guide, straight away (it sort of helps that I had looked her up on their website before we arrived – not in a stalker kind of way I hasten to add!). Bubbly, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable, Hanna was the perfect guide to show us around.
Hanna advised us that there are anywhere up to 12 people on a tour. We were lucky. We only had 3 other people to share our food! ;). Lynn, Tom and Randy were from Wisconsin in America and were such great company. They had already paid a visit to France and, after stopping off in London, they were on their way to Edinburgh.
Our first stop was St John Bread and Wine where we were treated to the perfect first thing in the morning food…a bacon sandwich. But not just any bacon sandwich! The bacon was from a Gloucester Black Spot pig – one of the best we were told – , the bread was freshly made on site as was the tomato ketchup. What I do have to say that the bread – despite it’s appearance – was not in the least bit heavy. This restaurant is renowned for it’s top to tail use of the whole animal when cooking. It was delicious.
Second was The English Restaurant and a portion of bread and butter pudding (and no, I didn’t care that it was about 10.30am!). The finest I have ever tasted with lashings of creamy custard. The restaurant itself is a 17th Century building looking like something out of a Dickensian novel. It was beautiful. There is a polite notice requesting that no laptops are used inside which helps to maintain its historic interior.
Next we were on to Androuet, the cheese stop shop! I have to say that this was the least favourite of all my stops. The tasters they gave out were far less generous than the rest of the places and I sort of felt ‘rushed’ by the gentleman who was presenting to us whom I didn’t really understand due to his very thick French accent coupled with the speed at which he was talking (I also heard later from a friend who frequents Androuet that they did the most amazing fondue – something I would have much rather tried!).
I have to say that despite my thoughts on the day when the final stop won for me, I like to judge things by the lasting memory they leave. This is what Poppies did for me. Not only were the fish,chips and mushy peas utterly gorgeous and melt in your mouth but the surroundings were superb. Most certainly my favourite. The waitresses were dressed from the 1940’s, there was a jukebox in the corner, lots of plaques with sayings all over the wall and a strip all around the restaurant with cockney rhyming slang and it’s meaning. The award winning fish is fried in nut oil to give it a fresh and crispy texture. It is easy to see why Poppies has won fish and chip restaurant of the year. The other thing I really loved was that they wrapped their takeaways in newspaper but, unlike the old days, this newspaper has been specially made with edible ink. No poisoning going on here!
Fifth on the list was a pub. The Pride of Spitallfields to be precise. Where we served with tasters of Trumans Ale and Somerset Cider and then, seeing as we were in Brick Lane, we aptly moved on to our curry stop.
Aladin were our hosts and we were served up a vegetable bhuna, lamb pathia and chicken madras coupled with a generous portion of naan bread. All the curries were wonderful and the Americans in our party – who had never tasted curry before – loved it and, in particular, 10 year old Ryan who seemed to relish spicy food according to his parents. Aladin is regularly listed in the top 10 Indian restaurants in London and it is easy to see why.
Bagels were next…but these weren’t just any bagels…they are made by Mr Sammy who has been baking bagels the old-fashioned, traditional way for nearly 50 years! The queues at Beigel Bake and endless – and understandably so. The bagel held melt-in-your-mouth salt beef, a gherkin and mustard.
Our final food stop was Pizza East. A rustic restaurant daubed with shabby chic attracting the hippest people. Stationed in an old warehouse, there is a club downstairs and restaurant up. Probably the most spacious restaurant I have ever seen! We were served up the most gorgeous salted caramel tart and a wonderful cup of tea to wash it all down.
Now, I have waxed lyrical about the food – but who wouldn’t?! However, there is another part of this tour which could well be overlooked if people aren’t paying attention to their guide…. and that is the history. I learned a lot of fascinating facts and interesting historical information on the way round. We saw the location of Jack the Rippers last victim – now a multi-storey car park full of different kinds of nasties, a building which looked perfectly normal on the outside but hosted a huge synagogue on the inside, an old Jewish soup kitchen, a huge array of street art including my first ever view of a Banksie in real life and Artillery Row which made an appearance in the Harry Potter films as part of Diagon Alley. I even learned why Spitalfields got it’s name (but I don’t want to spoil everything so you will have to go on the tour to learn that!).
The tours last around 3 and a half hours and run Monday to Saturday at 10am and 10.45am and priced at £65 for an Adult, £50 for an Adolescent (13 to 18 years) and £40 for under 13s.
As I said at the beginning of my post, this is one of the best tours I have ever been on. The experience is interesting, entertaining and extremely tasty. Hanna was our tour guide and was knowledgeable, engaging and a great laugh. She was may be a touch over-animated and I can see how this would be better for larger parties than our group of 5. That said, I wouldn’t change her one bit! I thought the history mixed with the food experience was fabulous and added an extra dimension to London for me – one that I had never discovered before – and has uncovered some great new places to eat. Ross and I have sworn that we will go back to Poppies.
I think that the pricing structure is very reasonable for an Adult. However, I certainly wouldn’t take Grace. I feel that she would get full very quickly and very likely lose interest. I definitely feel that this tour is one for the grown-ups and would make a great gift for the foodie in your life (they do Gift Certificates too!) plus who doesn’t need time away from the kids?!
Disclaimer: Ross and I were given the food tour in return for this review, however, all words, opinions and images are my own and have not been influenced in any way.